The Biden administration on Monday claimed that it has evacuated nearly 500 U.S. citizens from Afghanistan since the U.S.’s chaotic withdrawal on Aug. 31 while alleging that there are less than a dozen U.S. citizens still there that want to leave.
The numbers, announced in a press release from the State Department, are extremely higher than the estimate that President Biden originally cited regarding how many Americans were left behind in Afghanistan after U.S. forces left the country.
Even before the withdrawal, Biden had vowed to leave no U.S. citizen behind.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay to get them all out,” Biden promised on Aug. 16. However, only 15 days later, Biden marked the end of the Afghanistan War by saying that there were still only 100 to 200 Americans wanting to leave remaining in Afghanistan.
“[W]e believe that about 100 to 200 Americans remain in Afghanistan with some intention to leave,” President Biden said on Aug. 31. “Most of those who remain are dual citizens, long-time residents who had earlier decided to stay because of their family roots in Afghanistan.”
The State Department claimed to be “in touch” with the remaining U.S. citizens who want to leave Afghanistan, are prepared to depart, and have the necessary travel documents.
“As Secretary [Anthony] Blinken has said, there is no deadline for this work,” the State Department said in a statement, reiterating its promise to help relocate Afghan allies who helped the U.S. during the war.
The State Department said it is continuing to relocate more than 2,200 Afghan allies who worked with the U.S. as well as their families. Many of whom are special immigrant visa (SIV) holders or applicants.
The Biden administration is providing funding through the current fiscal year to support the resettlement of up to 95,000 individuals who have relocated from Afghanistan and entered the U.S. through Operation Allies Welcome.
More than 40% of Afghans who have come to the U.S. are eligible for SIVs because of their work with the U.S. “at significant risk to themselves,” or they are the immediate family member of someone who did, according to the State Department.
The State Department said that those being relocated from Afghanistan go through a “rigorous and multilayered screening and vetting process” before arriving in the U.S. and are also required to receive critical vaccinations.
President Biden vowed in August that evacuees from Afghanistan would be thoroughly vetted. He insisted that planes leaving Kabul would not go directly to the United States but to U.S. military bases and transit centers around the world.
“At these sites where they are landing, we are conducting thorough scrutiny – security screenings for everyone who is not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident,” he said.
However, Senate Republicans released a memo last month alleging that only a small percentage of Afghanistan evacuees who had come to the U.S. since the Aug. 31 withdrawal have been vetted.